Austin James (Jim) Cappon
Austin James (Jim) Cappon passed away peacefully at home on May 11, 2022, just shy of his 91st birthday. He was born on May 30, 1931 in Detroit, Michigan, the second son of Norbert and Olive (Austin) Cappon. After his mother died when Jim was very young, he was raised by his grandparents and his Aunt Irene in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. Despite the challenges of the times, Jim looked back fondly on his childhood filled with neighborhood paper routes and pick-up baseball games. After graduating from Wauwatosa High School, he enlisted in the Air Force in 1949 serving in Japan during the Korean War.
After being honorably discharged as a staff sergeant in 1953, Jim’s journey home took him to the Pacific Northwest where he worked in a silver mine in Idaho followed by a stint in the naval shipyards in the Seattle area. It was there he realized his calling to be an engineer. Jim returned to Wisconsin and attended Milwaukee School of Engineering on the GI Bill, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. He would later earn a Master’s degree in Systems Management from the Florida Institute of Technology.
While attending college, Jim began working nights at AC Spark Plug, which later became Delco Electronics. This began what would be a distinguished 37-year career in the aerospace industry. Jim and his young family moved frequently in the early sixties across the Midwestern and Western United States as he installed guidance systems as part of the country’s missile defense system. This experience led to his move to Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1965 where he worked on the Apollo program. As the Lead Spacecraft Engineer for Guidance and Navigation, Jim had a seat at Mission Control for six Apollo launches including Apollo 11, the first moon landing; the challenges of Apollo 13; and Apollo 17, the final mission of the program. Jim then transferred to Santa Barbara where he worked on a number of projects until his retirement from Delco Systems Operations in 1993.
After retiring, Jim embarked on a second career utilizing his many skills on volunteer work teams to benefit those in need. Locally he was involved in a number of projects including the expansion of Transition House and the refurbishment of his church. Building wooden toys for the Unity Shoppe every year ahead of the holiday season was deeply important to him to ensure a memorable Christmas for a child. Jim participated on numerous church-based work teams, often in collaboration with Congregation B’nai B’rith, and was forever grateful for the many friendships he made along the way. Work team projects took him to the Midwest to repair homes damaged by flooding, and to the South to rebuild churches victimized by arson. In the wake of Hurricanes Hugo and Katrina, Jim traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands and New Orleans to repair storm damage. Jim’s travels took him internationally as well, participating in humanitarian projects in Guatemala, Kenya, Slovakia and South Africa. He also graciously and patiently served as a 24/7 hotline for his children and grandchildren, advising them which electrical wire not to touch and when it was time to call a plumber.
Jim took up softball in his seventies playing in the local Seniors League. He relished his daily bicycle rides and rode his bike well into his eighties, often with his best friend Bill. His rides seemed all about the destination be it ice cream in Montecito, a sausage at Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta, or a cup of coffee at Goleta Beach. His life-long love for camping evolved from tents to shell campers to tent trailers to his beloved motor home, each being considered a significant upgrade by his children. Watching his children and grandchildren play sports brought him great joy. He was a true connoisseur of both ballpark and movie theater popcorn.
Jim was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Santa Barbara for over forty-five years where he served as an usher and a member of the Board of Trustees.
Jim is survived by his wife Sally, whom he married in 1956 in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, sons Jim, Jon and Chris, daughters-in-law Kathy and Alesia, grandchildren Alex, Austin, Kevin, Tyler, Jonathan and Michael, great-granddaughter Violet, sister-in-law Marion Cappon, and his many nieces and nephews. Jim was predeceased by his brothers Norbert and William. He will be deeply missed by all.
A celebration of Jim’s life will be held at Giorgi Park on Saturday, June 25, 2022 at 1:00 pm. All who knew Jim are welcome. The park is located at 1027 N. San Marcos Road.
In lieu of flowers, the family would be grateful for your gifts in Jim’s memory to the First United Methodist Church of Santa Barbara (305 E. Anapumu Street, Santa Barbara, CA. 93101), or VNA Health of Santa Barbara (512 E. Gutierrez Street, Santa Barbara, CA. 93103).